Everything Works Out Perfectly

 

We sing lots of made-up songs, my daughter Iris and I. Since she was an infant, I’ve made up silly little tunes, as I’m sure most mothers do, to teach her the steps of getting dressed or to remind her how much her papa and I love her or to just keep my worrying in check.

EWOP is one of our favorites. The concept isn’t mine, but the tune is. “Everything works out perfectly,” we sing. “Everything works out per-er-fectly.” Over and over. It’s soothing and catchy and reminds me that I don’t need to control the world because however it goes, it’s going to be fine. Continue reading “Everything Works Out Perfectly”

Mea Culpa

 

We walked today, picking fall flowers, dried seed pods and colorful leaves. Chattering like a busy chipmunk, she found pretty rocks in the gravel, drew line after line for us to race from, and marveled at the troops of soldier mushrooms. It was more a meander than a walk, but definitions matter not to a four-year-old. Her thoughts bubble over into words like a flowing well in the flat lands; there is no filter, no pause and the music of it all soaking the earth is innocent and pure.

And it never stops. Ever.

Even in her dreams she is talkative and loud. A social sleep talker, telling her stories and voicing her fears.

But it is a respite to tune into her world, letting it drown out my restless mind that takes eternal practice to quiet for even the rare millisecond. She is my practice. Continue reading “Mea Culpa”

The Long Division of Fear

Column 37 Published in the October 18th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

My dad saw a moose…a healthy one, here, at The Angle!

That statement, by the way, is The Angle’s version of name-dropping or celebrity-sighting.

But my little mind is on politics, not moose nor life at The Angle. How can I rest in the beauty of our changing seasons or delight in the wildlife on the move when there is a giant orange circus peanut train wreck on every media outlet known to humankind?

My favorite sister gave me a huge bag of soft, fresh circus peanuts for my birthday one year. I ate Every. Single. One. Sickeningly sweet, ungodly orange and a spongey consistency defying all that is natural, I’ll always hold a cavity-like spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of holes in my heart…the three-year old in my life now routinely asks me to quit singing, tells me whatever we’re doing is BORING, and has taken over command of the car stereo. She is also newly in control of her own wardrobe choices, much to the dismay of the matchy matchy dictator in me.

But like my long-gone love for high heels, I’ve learned to let the matching OCD go. After all, in the wilderness this time of year, everything gets muddy, and therefore everything matches.

Mud aside, I had planned a long, philosophical column about having compassion for the many millions of folks who live in fear, i.e., the Donald Trump followers of the land. They are my family members, my neighbors, my acquaintances and many more I’ll never meet. I wanted to lecture and cajole, shame and berate, and tell them the story of when I was sexually assaulted in almost exactly the way Donald Trump described.

I wanted to plead with them about reconsidering their made-up minds, whining about how my little girl would have to grow up in a country that elected a president who thinks it okay to grab women by the ***.

And then it hit me….

I’m acting just as fearful as the very people I thought needed compassion. In fact, every single one of us is afraid. And almost if not all of the time, too.

Better to write about the rain gauge.

Or the squirrel that drowned in the kiddie pool I am long overdue in cleaning out.

Or the gnome home we built near the road in hopes that people would interact with it, and finally they are.

Or the wolves and bob cat and bear and rabbits and deer and wood chucks and the majestic golden eagles I’ve been seeing lately.

Or the excellent crappie spots my favorite fishing guide has shown me.

But those are all distractions from the lesson at hand, which feels like another big one for me, and yep, here it is: What we perceive in others, we strengthen in ourselves.

I’ve been pointing the finger at Fear for some time now but without truly seeing my own fears.

One night when I was awake “wrestling,” as I’ve been a lot lately – six hefty books, a journal and my phone for research on my lap – I wrote down the baseline fears I found myself clinging to:

  1. Harming or “ruining” Iris (my 3-year old daughter)
  2. Not producing that which I am supposed to
  3. Never “knowing”
  4. Losing Tony

I share these only to show value in looking inward. If I’m seeing a fearful world out there, it’s because I’m holding on to fear in my heart in some form. For insane reasons, I must have thought fear would be a better motivator, a better change agent. I had put my faith in fear instead of in love. To me, this is epitomized in believing in the Devil. Our belief in his evil is the only nourishment he needs. Fear wants to survive, and like a malignant cell, it does what it has to do, grasping at anything to keep our belief in it alive.

My fear that I would harm my daughter’s free-spirit, self-esteem, and connection to Source is the very thing that kept me trying to be her dictator, which, of course, has only served to push her away into disconnection and independence.

My fear that I won’t create what I was put on this earth to create keeps me from getting started. It keeps me believing that nothing I do is good-enough, especially for the “grand expression” of whatever my life’s gift is supposed to be.

My fear of never “knowing” is what keeps me in perpetual Seeking mode, instead of resting into the stillness of peace that already resides within.

My fear of losing the man I’ve chosen to love turns my focus away from Giving to him and tailspins me into worrying about what I’m Getting from him.

A Course in Miracles teaches that anything that engenders fear is divisive. It divides us from our fellow humans and it divides us from God.

In the political arena, politicians who preach fear, i.e., “our country is going down the tubes and I alone am here to save it…” are not uniting us, they are dividing us and very damagingly so.

We can’t rest in the peace of God while we are divided, while we are hating Donald Trump, or hating anything, for that matter. The Bible says that God hates that which is contrary to love, but either I’m misreading it or frankly, I just don’t buy it. If God is One, God can’t know or hate that which is other than Him, because otherness, contrariness can’t exist in Oneness. Hate stems from fear, and God knows no fear. Fear was made up in our minds to keep us separate from God.

But whoa Nellie, let’s not go there just quite yet. I’m still new to the Bible and I probably shouldn’t preach what I’m wrestling about.

Hey, look! A moose!

To wrap up this not-so-round-about rant, I was afraid of Donald Trump winning, but I’m not anymore. Not because it seems less and less likely, but because I can choose to reside in peace. I can choose love over fear.

Whatever happens in the election, whatever happens regarding my four baseline fears I shared with you, I know that everything will work out perfectly. Fear may seem powerful because it leads to strong reactions, but it is in fact the ultimate weakness. Nothing built on fear can last.

Including presidential campaigns.

And circus peanuts.

 

(Photo by Lauren Garfinkle via her EdibleGovernment Project and Creative Commons content.)

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know

Column 14 Published in the November 10 Warroad Pioneer

 

For as much as I’ve written to the contrary, the Angle can’t really be considered all that extreme anymore. We get mail three times a week. FedEx and UPS can deliver a dusty Amazon Fresh package directly to our doorsteps or docks. Electricity has been around since 1974, though it’s spendy and tends to go out when we’re hatching eggs in the incubator, have just sat down to a long-anticipated movie night or are in the middle of perfecting our lemon custard soufflé. (Just kidding. Nobody at The Angle bakes soufflés.)

Marine Band radio was replaced when regular phone service came in 1991, and today we have sketchy DSL internet and one decently reliable cell carrier. Notably, the gossip grapevine is only a tad slower now that we don’t have the loud crackle of a neighbor’s conversation in our living rooms.

Of course, I did not live here in those times, but I do remember visiting my grandparents and marveling at the novelty of it all. It felt special, quaint, exciting.

Moving here was not any huge sacrifice, nor was it a lofty transcendental quest. It simply felt right, or at least I wanted it something fierce. Wanting, as I have learned the hard way, does not always lead to wise decisions, however. And though I do subscribe to No Mistakes, or phrased positively Everything Works Out Perfectly, in hindsight I can see that there were easier, more sensible routes to my desire.

I am of the belief system that we’re here in this life to learn a select few lessons that we chose before we arrived, the exact ones necessary to move us along both the collective and our individual evolutionary path to the divine.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know,” spiritual teacher, author, ordained nun and mother Pema Chodron said.

Not surprising to anyone who knows me, I am a slow and stubborn study in a lot ways.  There are life lessons I have had to repeat again and again and again, especially on matters of the heart. My in-process lessons in The Angle’s soft extremes seem so embarrassingly painful, and yet at the same time, I’m exhausted from taking them so damn seriously.

I’m craving a full-bellied laugh that cleans out my tear ducts in a wellspring from the depths of my tired soul.

Laughter is a release, after all, and letting go is so critically important. The anonymous saying, often wrongfully attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, has always spoken to my heart:  “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

The Angle seems a rough life, but there is an underlying gentleness that pulls and kneads at our awakening souls. By default of our very whereabouts–the forested land, the mighty lake, the gravel roads bumpier than they’ve been in their 40-year history, according to one old-timer a week ago—by those threads, we have a cautious connection to the raucous cacophony of the outside world.

We can shut if off at will. And we can escape back into it at the touch of a button.

From my window, I watch a small woodpecker working vigilantly despite the rain and the wind. The deer have arrived for their daily meal of the garden’s leavings. The migratory birds are all gone now and traffic at the feeders is slow.

My little one and I cleaned out her sandbox and put all the outside toys away for the winter. There was a sentimental finality to that somehow. Letting things lie until the spring thaw – there’s another hard-learned lesson for many of us.

Letting go and letting things lie are far from the same, of course. One will beget that soulful laughter a long time hence, and the other, regret.

The Angle, as she does, has let go of another beloved. Hard-working resort owner and lovingly-stubborn resident Norm Undahl passed away on October 30. I wrote of his wife, Joan, only a few columns back and want to pass on heartfelt sympathies to such a strong lady. Norm and Joan were an anchor couple on Oak Island and I’m sure residents would agree, it just won’t be the same.

Death is a final teacher of sorts. If I haven’t wrapped up my lesson-book by then, I’m sure it’ll take out its red pen and show me the correct answers.

The World is Too Much With Us

Column 8 Published in the August 11 Warroad Pioneer

It occurred to me some time ago, as I watched my two-year old run joyously up and down the grassy ditches of our driveway, that this glacier-smoothed prairie land isn’t flat to her. She has mountains to climb every day, valleys to explore, caverns and arroyos. There is no cellular longing in her for the great pines that used to anchor the soil and the wolves here. No ancestral guilt for the unchecked logging of a century ago that left us with only the fast growing birch, popple and balm of gilead. “Junk wood” as I’ve heard it called by the old timers. When you’ve survived sixty some winters on the sweat of your own labor cutting, hauling, stacking, and tending to the fires, I suppose you’ve earned the right to judge the wood that warms your family.

The land feels flat to me of late. I walked the road, and the curing crunch of gravel underfoot offered up only a minor healing tonic. “The world is too much with us, late and soon. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Wordsworth knew. He saw clearly the growing disconnect with nature. My distracted mind can’t see the summer moss and mushroom patches. The wild lilies bloomed and broke, and I barely noticed.

This place, this Angle drew me home four years ago this September and never have I regretted it. But the worldly world still pulls and tugs and busy-ness erodes the rhythm of deep, barefoot breathing. The sunrise and sunset of the harvest blue moon sang quietly through my window as I worked diligently at my computer, its ghastly light interrupting sleep patterns and dream therapy.

We’ve moved from one reactive happening to the next this spring and summer. Northerly Park grant planning, a friend’s death, a sibling’s wedding, a 300+ person community event, and oh  my  gosh, potty training. Why did no one tell me it’s so hard!? I read a how-to book, for goodness sake, and felt like a fool doing so, but I’ve been at my wit’s end too many times these last many months. Still it drags on.

Our Angle Days event will be behind me when this goes to press, but now, as it breathes down my neck like a disorganized dragon, I wonder how it always comes together like it does. Each year, we bite off more and more, plan bigger and broader, invite, advertise, market – all in hopes to share this place, this simple beautiful life.

And as the stress roils, the Angle works its silent magic to gently bring me back.

Today it was the east wind and a soft blanket of rain that reminded me, brought me home. I stared over a flat gray lake and let the mist meet my skin just as I used to in the monotone winters of the Pacific Northwest.

You have forgotten, the wind breathed to me. This is The Angle. This is the truth of life. Somehow, someway it all always works out perfectly. Everything is as it should be. Even the spending and getting. Even the flatness.

You have chosen to remember, it said, sweeping across the miles of rocky shorelines and untouched islands of Lake of the Woods, bringing the cleansing rain as easterlies always seem to do. Remember you are home. Remember you are whole. Remember you are enough.

Now go. Get up. Run with the wolves again. Show your little one just how majestic these flatland hills truly are.

No Mistakes

Column 7 Published in the July 28, 2015 Warroad Pioneer

We have a house full of visitors this week. The family has converged on the Angle for the wedding of the seventh sibling. I’m the fourth, if you go in order of age, and I’m the eighth, if you go in order of “having gotten married.”

Being single at the Angle isn’t something I’ve done for long, and, like backing up a boat trailer, it seems to gather an audience when you’d like one the least. Inexperience in any form here comes with a sharp learning curve, often costly repair work and either heartfelt empathy or a wizened guffaw depending on your chosen confidant. If, for example, a rookie housekeeper fails to notice a slightly cracked sliding door in the dead of winter on a condo that’s going to be shut down for the next two weeks. Or if a newcomer boats through a weed bed and doesn’t know to reverse and clear the prop. Or a new truck owner delights in the speed of his vehicle and the freedom of the gravel roads at the expense of the boat he’s forgotten he’s towing.

All true stories but only one’s mine, thankfully, or I may very well have tucked tail and headed back to the ease of city-living. Oh, there’s been countless other laughable offenses on my part since moving here, but if you’re a part-time believer in No Mistakes, as I am, these experiences should all be beautiful gifts, chances to grow and live life at a deeper level. I say “part-time” and “should” because life gets busy, ego takes over, and I forget.

I can hear one of our old rough necks saying it now, “there ain’t no room for ego at the Angle.” I think he might be referring to foolish pride and whether or not you’ve got capacity to swallow it when that time inevitably comes. Because it will.

The Angle is forgiving in some ways and utterly harsh and devoid of compassion in others. Make a “mistake” and people step up to help. You learn a lot. Build closer friendships. And then lend a hand in return. It seems the natural way of it.

Ever notice that there are no mistakes in nature? Not even the spotted fawn running in the opposite direction of its mother only to be mowed down by a beast of an RV is a mistake. The most valuable cellular memory a spirit animal can pass on to its kind is the fear of man and all our obnoxious trappings.

If nature could revile us and kick us out, it certainly has cause. We abuse the planet for our egoic gains and nature forgives and grows back slowly, persistently, and in more robust heartiness than before on the very scars we scraped across her back.

No, there is no inexperience in the plant world. They have it figured out. They don’t try to rally remorse when, for example, one of the signature great white pines on the way to the Angle, dying though it was, seemingly gets cut down too soon. There are no mistakes.

Or when small-town gossip teaches a lesson in advance of any probably-painful wrong-doing. There are no mistakes.

Or when motherhood, arguably the most difficult and important institution on this abused planet, becomes infinitely more complex when the label “single” enters the picture. No, there are no mistakes.

Abused planet? Nope. Not even that is a mistake.

We like to think we’re immune to most things here at the Angle. But in fact, we feel it all the more intensely, as is likely true of any microcosm. We have all variants of human kind in our midst, a check in each box on the social census, and at the same time we’re closer to nature and further from societal rules than most.

Does it make for easy living? In ways, yes. In ways, no. Does it ruin us for the outside world? Also, yes and no. It would be a great challenge to leave this place, embedded as I am, but we’re all as adaptable as the plant world, whether we know it or not. Grass will conquer pavement given time.

Does it make my visiting relatives wonder how in the world we can live here, just as I used to wonder? Of course. But then I see them raise an eyebrow at a real estate sign and I watch the wheels turn. Change doesn’t seem so awfully scary when I remember that there are no mistakes. And “mistakes” don’t seem so awful in general when I can view them with grace from a home like the Angle.